SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2008
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SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (SEPTEMBER 2008 – NOVEMBER 2008)
– A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. Assisted by Anya Ratnayaka.
[*] Best for Blue – Sightings gather apace of Blue Whales and Sperm Whales off the Southern Seas of Sri Lanka
[*] The Gathering of Elephants finishes an extended season.
[*] Another Dragonfly Tour Report from Quest for Nature (See Trip Reports)
[*] Wildlife Photography Exhibitions (See Press Releases) and new books (See Publications)
BIRDING AND WILDLIFE NEWS
Blue Whales and Sperm Whales from Southern Sri Lanka
The Best for Blue season has once again got underway in the Southern seas off Sri Lanka. In October whale sightings were patchy. But in November whale sightings are regular. Readers are reminded that there is a spike in whale sightings predicted by marine biologist Dr Charles Anderson in December-January and again in April.
This whale watching season will accumulate more data to test this hypothesis. The following whale watching reports have been received.
23 November 2008 Mirissa Water Sports reported 4 Blue whales and 50 dolphins.
23 November 2008 evening at 6.30 pm Anoma Alagiyawadu photographed a dead cetacean which had washed up near the beach at the Lighthouse Hotel. It is probably a False Killer Whale, but the identification was pending confirmation at the time of writing.
22 November 2008 Nilantha Kodituwakku reported 4 Blue Whales.
21st November 2008 Anoma Alagiyawadu reported 4 Blue Whales and approximately 300 Spinner Dolphins.
20 November 2008 Mirissa Water Sports reported 2 Blue Whales and 2 Dolphins.
14 November 2008 Nilantha Kodituwakku reported 2 Blue Whales, 6 Sperm Whales and 250 plus Spinner Dolphins.
12 November 2008 Chitral Jayatilake reported 1 Blue Whale, and 12 plus Spinner Dolphins.
07 November 2008 Mirissa Water Sports reported 1 Blue Whale and 30 dolphins.
12 October 2008 Nilantha Kodituwakku spent 5 hours at sea and had no whales or dolphins.
08 October 2008 Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Anoma Alagiyawadu spent 5 hours at sea with a Rupavahini crew (Discover Sri Lanka with Sharmini Serasinghe) and had no marine mammals.
20th September Chitral Jayatilake reported 5 whales 20 nautical miles off Galle. Based on a photograph, at least one of the whales appear to be that of a Sperm Whale.
Commenting on the data so far, listed above, Dr Charles Anderson comments as follows. “This is exciting. This spate of sightings seems to bear out the hypothesis. November seems a bit early, but I am not complaining. Having said that, I originally thought that November was the month when they should be moving through Maldives (and on to Sri Lanka). But after 36 days at sea in the Maldives in November over 3 years, looking specifically for Blues and not seeing a single one, I guessed that most were moving through in December. Maybe this year they are early. One thing is for sure, however well one thinks one understands a phenomenon like this there are always going to be a few wrinkles to confuse the issue”.
Wicky Wikramasekara, and the team from Quest for Nature visited the Talangama Wetlands on the 03rd of October, 2008. At the wetlands they had reported to have seen a large number of dragonfly species; such as the Elusive Adjutant and Adam’s Gem. The next day they visited Kithulgala and saw the Ultima Gema and the Rivulet Tiger. On the 10th of October, they saw a Yerbury’s Elf and Hunas Falls. When they visited Sigiriya Sanctuary on the 12th of October they reported that they spotted an Asian Skimmer, Bermeister’s Glider and an Indian Rockdweller.
Wicky Wikramasekara, Jennifer and Michael Aldous (travelling with Wildlife Worldwide – UK), visited the Yala National Park on the 29th of October 2008, and saw a pair of leopards mating near the Gonalebba Meda Para. They saw a male Sloth Bear and one Sambar Deer on their way towards the Welmalkema Road. On their second visit of the park they had a glimpse of a Rusty-spotted Cat near the entrance of the park, a male leopard at the Thelambu kema, another leopard at Jamburagala and on their way back out they saw a Ring-tailed Civet.
Hetti, and the team from the Speyside Wildlife Group visited the Yala National Park in the 24th of October 2008 and saw a large male leopard lying on a rock at 5.30pm at the Rukvila Junction. The next day on another safari, they saw a Sloth Bear walking along the Buthawa Road at about 4.30 pm. On the 26th of October, they visited the Bundala National Park and saw a Broad-billed Sandpiper, a Rufous-necked Stint and a Great Knot at 8.15 am. Later on that evening they visited the Yala National Park again and saw a large leopard walking along the Meda Para at 5.30 pm.
Jayaweera was on a family holiday at the Yala National Park on the 20th of October 2008 and saw a Jungle Cat at 12.30 pm. The next day they had a Sloth Bear near Meda Para at around 5.30 pm.
Upali Nissanka, and Ray Randal visited the Sinharaja Rainforest on the 28th of October 2008 and about 300 meters from the forest entrance they saw a Serendib Scope Owl at 7.30 am. On the 01st of October they visited the Yala National Park and saw a female Sloth Bear with her two cubs playing near the Maliththan Katuwala Lake around 5.00 pm.
The next day they reported that they saw a leopard at the Malittan Katuwala Lake at 10.00 am and then another leopard at 4.30 pm.
On 30th September 2008 Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne with Naturalist Guides Wicky, Hetti and Jayaweera were on a field training session in Sinharaja. The following is an extract from Gehan’s Diary.
“A pair of Ceylon Spurfowl visited Martin’s around 6.30 am. They kept to cover as usual and were difficult to see. Indian Swiftlets and a Barn Swallow hawked overhead. Blue-tailed Migrants and Forest Wagtails had arrived.
White-faced Starlings called several times and 3 birds visited a fruiting Kenda tree (Macaranga peltata). One mixed species feeding flock was at the bend between Martin’s and the Barrier gate. Feeding Ceylon Hanging-parrots utter a single call note, evenly spaced out. A juvenile Brown-capped Babbler was on the road and was vocalising. I wish the rule against carrying sound recording equipment was not in place as a lot of scientific recording which can be done by amateurs cannot take place now. Other birds seen or heard included Ceylon Blue Magpie, Ceylon Grey Hornbill (h), Yellow-fronted Barbet (h), Black-capped Bulbul (h), Yellow-browed Bulbul, etc. Our focus on this visit was butterflies and dragonflies so we did not really go after the birds.
Several Commanders were in flight, sometimes flying up quite strongly to the canopy. We had several light versions of the Plum Judy and two dark forms. An Aberrant Bushblue was perched on some Coleus kanneliyensis. The same patch had teneral Black-tipped Flashwings. A pieridiae like butterfly with white wings edged in black caught my eye. It alighted briefly and we realised it was a Swordtail sp. It flew on swiftly before we could ID it or photograph it. Other butterflies seen included Tree Nymph, Glad-eye Bushbrown, Grass Yellow sp., Common Bluebottle, Tailed Jay. Great Crow, Glassy Tiger, Clipper, Cruiser (male), Red Helens (browner females and black males).
Near the Maguru Wala we photographed and video taped the yet to be described Lyriothemis species. I believe this will be described very soon. Common dragonflies included Asian Pintail (Acisoma panorpoides), Green Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina), Painted Waxtail (Ceriagrion cerinorubellum), Marsh Dancer (Onychargia atrocyana). Less common ones found in this habitat included Spine-tufted Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis), Marsh Skimmer (Othetrum luzonicum) and what is probably a very rare Drooping Shadowdamsel (Drepanosticta lankanensis).
We observed and video taped a female Giant Woodspider (Nephia maculata) packaging in gossamer a wasp which it had caught. Also photographed was a tiny black spider with red on its abdomen, which is common.
The Field Ornitholgy Group of Sri Lanka had a poster advertising their publications at Martin’s They have published a very useful leaflet which had photographic illustration of 34 species of common rainforest plants. We used this in the field to familiarise ourselves with some of the plants. Our guide Ranjika knew the local names of the common plants as well. This leaflet sponsored by Sri Lanka Telcom is a wonderful initiative. Another leaflet photographically illustrated some of the special features of a rainforest. The leaflets were priced at Rs 50 each.
Why am I a Wildlife Photographer?
[See under Press Releases for details of Rukshan’s exhibition which is on at the Braefoot Gallery from 26th November to Sunday 7th December 2008].
Twelve years ago, while finishing a two-year contract at the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Kandy, I had to make a decision about my immediate career future. If I wanted to stay on at the IFS, I had to register for my next Degree, a PhD in Archaeology. Instead I wanted to leave, as I still had a hope of joining the Dept. of Archaeology, despite five frustrating years of trying. I also felt that there would be time enough to do a Ph D, if I found full time employment in Archaeology, and was able to identify needs, and design research programmes, accordingly. At the back of my mind however, I knew that the prospect of joining the Dept. was not the best.
While I was thinking aloud of other options, based on my many interests, my Supervisor, and team leader at the time, Dr Martha Prickett Fernando, an American Archaeologist, asked me to list out all the things I wanted to do, and arrange them in order of priority. There were two that topped the list. One was to become the best wildlife photographer that I can be, while working for Conservation. The other was to be a writer and write a best-selling book.
As my attempts to join the Dept. of Archaeology over the years, led to a series of dead ends, and the frequency of my visits to National Parks, especially Yala, increased, I also met like minded individuals engaged in similar pursuits. In 1999, I decided to focus on wildlife photography almost single mindedly. At the time, the need to take better photographs, of leopards in particular, was strongly felt by a small group of us, that had come together, to produce a book on the Sri Lanka leopard. This was primarily to further the conservation of this little understood and sometimes, much misunderstood carnivore. My method was to totally immerse myself in tracking, learning about and photographing leopards, to get from where I was as a photographer, to where I wanted to go.
Fortunately, the fact that I was not employed on a regular basis, freed me to spend as much time as I could in Yala. In the year 2000, I also became acquainted with a Yala Game Guard, a tracker, by the name of Kumara Banda. Born in Kumana village, he had an extraordinary instinct for animals, combined with the most unbelievable field craft.
Jehan Kumara, the late Dr Ravi Samasinha, and I were the three main collaborators in compiling a book on all aspects of the Sri Lanka leopard .In 2003, our book, ‘For the Leopard’ was published, and a generous contribution that covered all the design, and publishing costs, enabled the Leopard Trust Fund, that was simultaneously launched, to grow from the sale proceeds of the book.
I am the middle child in a family of three boys. From my youngest days my interest was in Nature, and I was to subsequently discover the world of books. Mechanical things never interested me. My other family members are more mechanically and technically savvy, and that includes my mother. However, I am a self – taught photographer, who as a child, with a plastic camera, took photographs of natural subjects only. People were never a part of what I chose to photograph. To this day I have to remind myself to sometimes photograph people too.
In 1999, I decided to fuse my knowledge as a naturalist, with my interest in photography. One of my secondary objectives was to prove that wildlife photography in Sri Lanka could and should reach international standards.
In 2002, my photograph of a hawk eagle grappling with a land monitor, taken in Yala, was given a Highly Commended award by BBC Wildlife magazine’s Wildlife Photographer of The Year competition. This is recognized as the biggest and most prestigious international competition for wildlife photography. It is open to amateurs and professionals alike, and that year received approximately 20,000 entries. Awards were given to just 100 entries. The picture traveled with the competition’s annual exhibition, both in Britain and Europe, as well as North America and Australia. Thereby, Sri Lankan wildlife and Yala, in particular got rare exposure, and I felt vindicated. The photograph was also published in the Book – Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Portfolio 12.
I still believe, that cameras and lenses, are merely tools that enable you to capture the picture that you have in mind, or freeze that fleeting moment in time. Just as much as my vehicle, is a means of transport, to get me to where I want to go, wherever that may be.
To be seduced by the technology (that is constantly changing anyway), and lose oneself in the techno babble is to lose sight of what is paramount, which is your subject, and the way it is presented. Photographing Nature is a powerful way to raise awareness of its beauty and importance, beyond the confines of the enthusiastic few.
All the photographs, bar one, in this exhibition are printed from colour slides, or transparencies, although I have been using a Digital Camera as a back up since mid 2004, and as my frontline camera since 2006. The large backlog of my photographs using slide film, requires me to restrict my selection to film. This Exhibition, is also my long goodbye to film.
The photographs exhibited here, span the period 2002 to 2007 with the exception of three or four, that were taken earlier. None have been exhibited before, and reflect my personal selection. In photographing animals, I make every effort to capture the essence of that animal. I hope I have succeeded. My selection does not in any way constitute a representative collection of this Island’s substantial bio-diversity. Neither is it restricted to Sri Lankan subjects.
I make no apologies for what I choose to photograph. I do not believe that wildlife should be viewed as ours, mine and theirs. Thankfully, animals have the good sense not to respect our political boundaries and live freely, governed by their needs only. They live in a borderless world, and we too need to take a cue from them, and have an ecosystem approach to conservation. A nation’s wildlife is in reality a part of the natural heritage of the whole world.
I am essentially a long lens photographer, and this collection also reflects that bias. It also focuses on my special interests, which are birds and leopards. To be successful, a wildlife photographer, requires, concentration, patience and discipline. Some days in the field can be shatteringly exhausting, with little result to show for the effort. I have made many personal sacrifices along the way, but the sum total of time spent out in wilderness areas, in the proximity of wild animals, has been a sheer joy. I have absolutely no regrets. The natural beauty and events that I have witnessed, far exceeds what I have been able to capture within the confines of 35mm frames, most often from within the confines of a restrictive vehicle. I hope what I have succeeded to capture, inspires others, especially the younger generation, to appreciate and safeguard our irreplaceable natural heritage.
Rarely seen Hog Deer in Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest
(This article was ‘Press Released’ to the Sri Lankan media in November 2008)
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
One of the most beautiful stretches of rainforest in Sri Lanka is the rainforest bordering the Hiyare Reservoir, about 18 km (approximately half an hour’s drive) from Galle. Visitors to the Hiyare Biodiversity and Education Center have a rare opportunity to see two Hog Deer. This extremely wary and nocturnal deer is rarely seen in the wild by naturalists. Its is confined to western seaboard. W.W.A. Phillips in his Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon published in 1935 gave its distribution as being from a few kilometers North of Kalutara to Kottawa in Galle. It is found in a band which ranges from 10 to 30 kilometers inland. The Hog Deer is believed to spend the day in forested patches and come out at night to feed in swamps, paddy fields, etc. Its hooves are specially modified to spread out slightly when it walks, to distribute it weight on swampy ground. Hog Deer are free living in the wild in Sri Lanka, and are considered by many authors to be a native species, despite a curiously disjunct distribution in South Asia. W.W. A. Phillips writing in the first edition of Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon commented of a traditional belief that it was introduced by the Dutch or the Portuguese. However this comment was removed from the 1980 revised edition. The nominate species is found in tall grasslands and swamp forest in Northern India from Uttaranachal to Assam, Mizoram and Manipur. It is possible that DNA analysis may shed some clues as to the origin of the sub-species of Hog Deer in Sri Lanka.
The Hiyare Rainforest as it is popularly referred to, is an extension of the Kottawa Khombala Forest Reserve. This stretch of rainforest is scenically situated around the Hiyare Reservoir. The reservoir and the land surrounding it, is administered by the Galle Municipal Council, whereas the much larger forest reserve is administered by the Forest Department. The reservoir ceased to supply water to the town of Galle in 2002 and in 2003 the Galle Municipal Council opened it to the public. It has also encouraged and facilitated the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle (WCSG) which runs a field center there. The WCSG engages in education, conservation and research. The initiative by the Galle Muinicipal Council is a benchmark for other local authorities to engage with the public and to support conservation and education.
Thanks to the Galle Municipal Council’s Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and the Forest Department’s Kottwa Rainforest and Arboretum, residents and visitors to Galle have superb and easy access to rainforests. Galle is the rainforest capital of Sri Lanka and is the richest of Sri Lanka’s districts in bio-diversity. In the first week of October I travelled to the Lighthouse Hotel in Galle to join Sharmini Serasinghe who is producing and presenting Discover Sri Lanka, a new travel series for Rupavahini. Together with Lighthouse Hotel Naturalist Anoma Algaiyawadu, I was to assist her in showcasing Galle as the Rainforest Capital of Sri Lanka. On my way South, I travelled through stretches of the A2, where I had swamps on my left right. The swamps reminded me that I had not yet seen a Hog Deer and I thought my only chance lay in an injured specimen been taken captive for treatment. A few days later, with Sharmini and her Rupavahini crew, I arrived at the education center of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle in Hiyare to film the rainforest. Imagine my surprise and delight when Sameera Akmemana and Sampath Gunasinghe of the society pointed out two Hog Deer under its care. The Ruapavahini crew also filmed some of freshwater fish such as the Striped Rasbora and the endemic Sinhala Barb. The latter is easily seen in the reservoir. The word Hiyare originates from an expression which means a hundred streams. Over thirty species of freshwater fish have been recorded by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the rainforest streams of which several are endemic.
An enclosure presently has an injured Hog Deer fawn which has had the end of one of its feet bitten off by dogs. An un-related adult female has also been brought in. The female has bonded with the fawn. The female had been kept as a pet and it cannot therefore be released as it is trusting towards people and may be hunted. According to Sameera Akmemana and Sampath Gunasinghe of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, these two Hog Deer take the number of Hog Deer brought to the center to a total of eight. For photographers and naturalists, this a superb opportunity to view and photograph Hog Deer.
To enter the Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest, and the Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum, a nominal fee is levied for tickets. To get to Hiyare, from Galle, take the Udugama Road (B129). A hundred meters past the 9 km post of the B129, take the road to the right. 4.4 km later you come to a big bridge, take the dirt track immediately to your left which leads to the Hiyare Reservoir, a hundred meters away.
For the Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum, continue along the B129. Just past the km 13 post on the B 129, on the right, is the Kottawa Information Center. Buy your entrance tickets here. Further along the road before the 14 km post are gates to the left and a large yellow sign board “Kottawa Arboretum Wet Evergreen Forest Kottawa Khombala”. Enter the forest from here. Follow the wide trail that runs parallel to the road until it rejoins it about a km away.
Quest for Nature Trip – Dragonflies, Butterflies, Birds and Wildlife Tour of Sri Lanka
By Karen Conniff
This trip was organized by Jetwing Eco Holidays, ‘Wicky’ Wickramasekera was the official naturalist tour guide and I was asked to attend the session as a guest dragonfly expert. The booking of hotels and logistics coordinations were arranged by Ajanthan Shanthiratnam.
Friday October 3rd
I met Andy and Denise Qualtrough and Michael and Jan Creighton at Villa Talangama on Friday morning when the Jetwing car pulled up from the airport. I wanted to take them on a walk straight away but could see that everyone was tired and needed a bit of rest before heading out. We met up again after lunch about 2 pm and walked around the lake, over the bridge to the wetland area and to Gehan’s de Silva Wijeyeratne’s little wilderness area. There were interesting water birds, lowland dragonflies and water snakes to see on the first evening around. The first dragonfly to be seen was the Elusive Adjutant (Aethriamanta brevipennis) and the familiar Pied Parasol (Neurothemis tulia). Some wetland damselflies, Malay Lilysquatter (Paracercion malayanum) and Yellow Waxtails (Ceriagrion coromandelianum) were easily spotted on the drainage ditch. After stopping to watch purple faced leaf monkeys the tour group went back to rest before we met again for dinner at the Villa and filled in the first day of our checklist.
Saturday October 4th
Departing from the Villa after 9 am we stopped at the Hokandara ditch where I knew we would find local endemics such as Adam’s Gem (Libellago adami), Orange-faced Sprite (Pseudagrion rubiceps ceylonicum) and Stripe-headed Threadtail (Prodasineura sita). Rare endemics that I hoped to see were not there and with paddy preparations in full swing the water levels were very low. We looked for Yellow Featherleg (Copera marginipes) at the local well and also found one of the largest frogs any of us had ever seen. It was a 4 hour drive to the entrance of Sinharaja rainforest, a World Heritage Site and bit more to Martin’s Forest Lodge. Lunch was the first thing we needed, but the view and the sounds were begging for attention. As soon as lunch was finished we got our gear out and went directly into the forest. The first dragonfly spotted was Furhstorfer’s Jungle Watcher (Hylaeothemis fruhstorferi), a Sinharaja specialty. It was getting dark in the forest and relatively quiet, moving at a slow pace we spotted a few more birds and various other creatures as the light faded. The calm weather and lack of rain made no difference to the leeches that had introduced themselves.
Sunday Oct 5th
We ate an early breakfast and our first sightings were of Sri Lanka Blue Magpies as we left Martin’s lodge. A few dragonflies appeared along the edge of the road that we would see almost every day of the trip – Asian Pintail (Acisoma panorpoides) and Green Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina), but we did get to see another Sinharaja specialty the Slope-winged Forestskimmer (Cratilla lineata calverti). It was almost lunch time and we were heading back when a guide leaving the forest reported sighting a Frogmouth pair. We quickly turned back and found the pair resting near the research centre. Many photos later we decided it was time to have lunch. Again it was a late lunch and everyone was hungry. After lunch we had a look at the visitor center ponds where Crimson Dropwings (Trithemis aurora) looked lovely beside the dark green water. Then down to the river where a fast flying small Macromia evaded us and we found a Sinhalese Shadow Damselfly (Drepanosticta sinhalensis) in the forest above the river. There were lots more butterflies and birds as we strolled around below the lodge. After dinner there is always hope for a night time view of an owl or loris. We tried hard but after hearing the calls drift away from us we decided to call it a day.
Monday October 6th
We pack up and walked down through the layers of forest to the entry gate. Andy was always looking out for reptiles and we encountered a few vine snakes for his entertainment. We found one Blury Forest Damsel (Platysticta maculata) and another Drepanosticta that does not appear in the literature yet. Just when we thought it was a slow morning we came to a pool near the new entry gate that was alive with dragonflies. It was early morning rush hour: Fiery Emperors (Anax immaculifrons), Spine-tufted Skimmers (Orthetrum chrysis), Indigo Dropwings (Trithemis festiva), and Sri Lanka Cascaders (Zygonyx iris ceylonicus) to mention a few were all busy over the pond as a large tractor was pulling down pine trees making for a total chaotic scene. Receiving another tip from a departing guide led us to a green pit viper. It was lucky for us that it was just a short distance from where we were standing. Andy had been looking for a pit viper all morning and there it was perched on a fern and very photogenic.
We continued on to the gate and into the van for the drive to Kitulgala. We ate lunch at Plantation House situated on the scenic Kelani River. The sky was building up rain clouds as we crossed the river on a tippy outrigger canoe to the Kitulgala Strict Forest Reserve. We quickly walked through the forest to a side river and had a quick look around before the rain started. It started to sprinkle as we walked out and built up to a downpour. So after a short wait under a roof we returned to the ferry and again crossed the river while balanced in a thin sliver of canoe – good experience for balance and nerves.
Last stop of the day was our hotel on the Ing Oya near Beli Lena cave, an ancient man site. The Royal River Resort sits on the river. It flows through the swimming pool and under the rooms. The rain vanished leaving a clear evening and the swimming pool was a perfect end to the day. Jan having no fear of cold water was the first to get in.
Tuesday October 7th
We spent the whole day at Mahabage walking the hills and wading through the streams. It was productive for several endemic species; 3 Threadtails (Elattoneura caesia, E. centralis, E. tenax), Ultima Gem (Libellago finalis), Nietner’s Shadowdamsel (Drepanosticta nietneri), and Rivulet Tiger (Gomphidia pearsoni) are a few of the new sightings that day. The weather was great and we had good luck finding several endemic birds; Layards Parakeets, Ceylon Hanging Parrots and Yellow Fronted Barbets. Butterflies were also interesting with tiny Cerulean butterflies, Red Helen and large Blue Mormons. Leeches were still around; we had not gotten away from them yet. The evening was relaxed with only river noise competing with our conversations.
Wednesday October 8th
We were up early and into the van for an easy drive to higher elevation and cooler but still pleasant temperatures at Nuwara Eliya and St. Andrew’s Hotel. After lunch we went to the wetland at St. Andrews to see if there was anything moving that might interest us, but it was quiet. A late afternoon trip to Victoria Park produced a couple of new species, Mountain Reedlings (Indolestes gracilis) and Common Bluetails (Ischnura senegalensis) that all were breeding in the grass next to a big central pond. We were soon a curiosity for park visitors as most wondered what would keep foreigners so interested in the pond for such a long time. We headed back for a lovely dinner at St. Andrews.
Thursday October 9th
Horton Plains a high elevation National Park is famous for its unique tropical cloud forest, wetlands and patannah grassland. A pond at the entry gate had an assortment of dragonflies that kept everyone occupied for over half an hour. Andy turning over stones, as usual, found an endemic rough-sided snake that was lovely to see. The new dragonfly to show up was the Triangle Skimmer (Orthetrum triangulare). A tame Sambar deer entertained us for a short time and posed for a few photos. We stopped at the wetland area to search for new sightings but they eluded us. We headed back to Nuwara Eliya for lunch and an afternoon stroll through a forest just outside of Nuwara Eliya.
Friday October 10th
First stop was Hakgala Botanical Gardens, where the ponds provided great views of Fiery Emperors, Mountain Reedlings, Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) and Triangle Skimmers. The garden is home to several endemic bird species which thrive in the collection of trees from around the world. Denise being fastest to focus was able to get lots of in flight shots. It was busy with a flurry of breeding in all the species seen.
On the drive to Kandy we passed several large Tea factories. Wickie asked and everyone thought that a tea tour would be interesting. He instructed the guide to give our group a brief tour of the factory. I was expecting to see them in half an hour but was amazed that they were back in less than 10 minutes. A cup of tea and we were on the way to Kandy. Kandy is the home of the famous Tooth Temple. Mike and Jan were keen to see it but Andy and Denise had seen it on a previous trip to Sri Lanka and opted for a stroll along the lake in front of the temple. On the lake we had good views of the Blue-eyed Pondcruiser (Epophthalamia vittata cyanocephala). Culturally enriched, Mike, Jan and Wicki returned and we went headed up to Hunas Falls Hotel. Our stroll around the tiny golf course was not productive for dragonflies but the sunset from the edge of the escarpment was stunning.
Saturday October 11th
Above Hunas Falls Hotel is Simpson’s Forest Trail. It is a great way to enjoy the country side, see birds, butterflies and of course some interesting dragonflies. The gradual rise in elevation is hardly noticed as the trail winds through a tea estate with a panoramic view of the valley before reaching thick patches of forest. Along the seepages below the tea estates we found Dark-glittering Threadtail, Fraser’s Shadowdamsel (Drepanosticta fraseri) and at the forest patch a mating pair of Mountain Shadowdamsels (Drepanosticta Montana). The Butterflies were numerous along the trail, a Tree Nymph posed perfectly for us, and we saw the Large Orange-tip and Small Salmon Arab. The walk was ideal and the weather brilliant. Andy again turned up with some interesting shield snakes for us to photograph. After lunch and something to drink we again explored the area around Hunas Falls looking for Yurbury’s Elf (Tetrathemis yurburyii); a rare endemic that in the past was found in the thick vegetation at the top of the lake. It didn’t take long before we found one. Mike successfully scaled the steep slope beside the lake and the leeches to get a rewarding photo of the Elf.
Monday October 12th
Driving down from Hunas Falls toward the dry zone we pass the Sudu Oya, a river above Matale. Late rains delayed cultivation of the paddy fields, so the usual hub of dragonfly activity surrounding the midland paddy fields was absent. We explored a bit and still found several species I was looking forward to seeing at this spot – Metallic-backed Reedlings (Indolestes divisus) and Paddyfield Parasols (Neurothemis intermedia). Then we were on to Amaya Lake Resort in Dambulla.
The drums were beating for us when we arrived at Amaya Lake Resort. It is a large area with lots of endemic trees and good habitat for birds and butterflies. The tanks surrounding ancient Sigiryria, are best for early morning dragonfly watching. But we thought it was worth an afternoon trip to get some exercise and look for wildlife, so after a big buffet lunch we headed off for some of the local tanks. One that we visited in 2007 was dry, but we knew where to find another with plenty of water. The Blue-eyed Pond Cruiser was racing along the edge of the tank and as usual Denise was fast with the camera and got some fantastic shots. A bit rain didn’t discourage us or a Blue-faced Malkoha that was hiding in the dense shrubs.
Tuesday October 13th
We arrived at a small pond next to an old Dagoba below Sigiriya Rock Temple, a UNSECO World Heritage site. The dragonfly display was not disappointing. We watch the Elephant Emperor (Anax indicus), Scalloped Spreadwings (Lestes praemorsus decipiens), White-tipped Spreadwings (Lestes elatus) all breeding along the grass-lined edge and an elusive glimpse of the Asian Slim (Aciagrion occidentale). A large Brown Fish Owl, disturbed by our presence, flew out from the trees near the pond. After an hour we moved on to the area beneath Sigiyira along the inner and outer moats. The moats were interesting for birds and butterfly but there no new species there for us to see.
Wednesday October 14th
Last day of the tour, it was hard to believe. We had been so busy to notice how time had raced by. We left the hotel and headed south toward Kurunegalla and to another ancient temple site called Arankale. Originally a place of meditation for a strict forest dwelling group of Buddhist monks it has a reverent quietness about it. An ancient bathing pond and the small tank beside, usually very active with dragonflies, were nearly dry because of late monsoon rains. The scant rain that had fallen here left a few puddles in the bathing pond and some dragonfly activity. The main goal was to find the Indian Rockdweller or Granite Ghost (Bradinopyga geminata). Jan successfully tracked one down and then had trouble helping others find it, since it kept disappearing.
We left for lunch in Kurunegalla and then the drove to Negombo. Arriving at the beach hotel I said farewell to the group. It was a motivating trip with people that had lots of different interests. I want to thank all of them for their individual and collective contributions to the success of the trip.
In looking at the list of all the wildlife we saw it is very diverse and impressive, especially the birds and reptiles (Thanks to Wickie and Andy).
Birds = 134 Endemics = 22
Butterflies = 61, but I am sure there were more of those tiny ceruleans that we missed.
Mammals = 15
Reptiles = 21
Amphibians & Fish = lots but identification of individual species was not possible.
Crabs & Snails = again lots of crabs all are endemic to Sri Lanka but individual species were not identified.
Moths = lots but no key for identification.
Miscellaneous Insects = Cicadas, grasshoppers, fireflies, Praying Mantis, Millipedes
Leeches – More than we want to remember.
Dragonflies 69 sighted during the tour from 3th to 14nd October 2008 are listed below.
Damselflies and Dragonflies
|Oriental Greenwing||Neurobasis chinensis chinensis||Kithulgala|
|Black-tipped Flashwing||Vestalis apicalis nigrescens E||Sinharaja, Kithulgala|
|Adam’s Gem||Libellago adami E||Talangama|
|Ultima Gem||Libellago finalis E||Kithulgala, Hunas Falls|
|Shinning Gossamerwing||Euphaea splendens E||Sinharaja, Kithulgala, Hunas Falls|
|Scalloped Spreadwing||Lestes praemorsus decipiens||Dambulla|
|White-tipped Spreadwing||Lestes elatus||Dambulla|
|Metallic-backed Reedling Hunas Falls||Indolestes divisus E||Road to Dambulla|
|Mountain Reedling||Indolestes gracilis gracilis E||Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains|
|Wandering Wisp||Agriocnemis pygmaea pygmaea||Talangama, Nuwara Eliya|
|Malay Lilysquatter||Paracercion malayanum||Talangama|
|Common Bluetail||Ischnura senegalensis||Nuwara Eliya|
|Painted Waxtail||Ceriagrion cerinorubellum||Talangama, Sinharaja|
|Yellow Waxtail||Ceriagrion coromandelianum||Talangama, Sinharaja, Hunas Falls|
|Malabar Sprite||Pseudagrion malabaricum||Dambulla|
|Blue Sprite||Pseudagrion microcephalum||Talangama, Hunas Falls|
|Sri Lanka Orange-faced Sprite||Pseudagrion rubriceps ceylonicum E||Talangama, Road to Dambulla|
|Yellow Featherleg||Copera marginipes||Talangama, Hunas Falls|
|Mountain Shadowdamsel||Drepanosticta Montana E||Hunas Falls|
|Nietner’s Shadowdamsel||Drepanosticta nietneri E||Kitulgala|
|Sinhalese Shadowdamsel||Drepanosticta sinhalensis||Kitulgala|
|Fraser’s Shadowdamsel||Drepanosticta fraseri||Hunas Falls|
|Dark Forestdamsel||Platysticta apicalis E||Kitulgala|
|Blurry Forestdamsel||Platysticta maculata E||Sinharaja|
|Jungle Threadtail||Elattoneura caesia E||Kitulgala, Nuwara Eliya|
|Dark-glittering Threadtail||Elattoneura centralis E||Kitulgala|
|Red Striped Threadtail||Elattoneura tenax||Kitulgala|
|Stripe-headed Threadtail||Prodasineura sita E||Talangama|
|Rivulet Tiger||Gomphidia pearsoni E||Kitulgala|
|Rapacious Flangetail||Ictinogomphus rapax||Talangama, Dambulla|
|Fiery Emperor||Anax immaculifrons||Sinharaja, Nuwara Eliya|
|Elephant Emperor||Anax indicus||Dambulla, Sigiriya|
|Blue-eyed Pond Cruiser||Epophthalmia vittata cyanocephala E||Kandy, Dambulla|
|Fruhstorfer’s Junglewatcher||Hylaeothemis fruhstorferi fruhstorferi E||Sinharaja|
|Yerbury’s Elf||Tetrathemis yerburii E||Sinharaja|
|Sombre Lieutenant||Brachydiplax sobrina||Talangama, Dambulla|
|Spine-tufted Skimmer||Orthetrum chrysis||Sinharaja, Kitulgala|
|Asian Skimmer||Orthetrum glaucum||Kitulgala, Hunas|
|Marsh Skimmer||Orthetrum luzonicum||Sinharaja, Kitulgala|
|Pink Skimmer||Orthetrum pruinosum neglectum||Talangama, Dambulla|
|Green Skimmer||Orthetrum sabina sabina||Talangama, Sinharaja, Hunas, Horton, Dambulla|
|Triangle Skimmer||Orthetrum triangulare triangulare||Horton Plains, Hakgala|
|Blue Pursuer||Potamarcha congener||Dambulla|
|Asian Pintail||Acisoma panorpoides panorpoides||Talangama, Sinharaja, Hunas|
|Asian Groundling||Brachythemis contaminata||Talangama, Arankele|
|Indian Rockdweller||Bradinopyga geminata||Arankele|
|Oriental Scarlet||Crocothemis servilia servilia||Talangama, Dambulla|
|Blue Percher||Diplacodes trivialis||Sigiriya|
|Light-tipped Demon||Indothemis carnatica||Arankele|
|Restless Demon||Indothemis limbata sita||Sigiriya, Arankele|
|Paddyfield Parasol||Neurothemis intermedia intermedia||Sudu Oya, Sigiriya|
|Pied Parasol||Neurothemis tulia tulia||Talangama, Sigiriiya, Dambulla|
|Spine-legged Redbolt||Rhodothemis rufa||Talangama|
|Red-veined Darter||Sympetrum fonscolombii||Nuwara Eliya, Horton, Hakgala|
|Crimson Dropwing||Trithemis aurora||Sinharaja, Hunas|
|Indigo Dropwing||Trithemis festiva||Sinharaja, Kitulgala, Hakgala|
|Dancing Dropwing||Trithemis pallidinervis||Dambulla|
|Variegated Flutterer||Rhyothemis variegata variegata||Talangama, Dambulla|
|Burmeister’s Glider||Tramea basilaris burmeisteri||Sigiriya|
|Sociable Glider||Tramea limbata||Sinharaja, Sigiriya, Dambulla|
|Elusive Adjutant||Aethriamanta brevipennis||Talangama|
|Scarlet Basker||Urothemis signata signata||Talangama|
|Sri Lanka Cascader||Zygonyx iris ceylonicum E||Sinharaja, Kitulgala|
|Lyriothemis sp nov||Lyriothemis Sp Nov||Sinharaja|
Note: one sighting has not been included due to uncertain identity (KC).
Sri Lanka Natural History Society Trip Report – Back of Beyond, Pidurangala
6th – 7th September 2008
Minneriya National Park, Thalkote Tank and Maha Weva
By Tara Wikramanayake
(This article was first published in the SLNHS Bulletin, No 6 November 2008).
We left early morning so as to reap the maximum out of a single night‘s stay. Immediately upon arrival, we scouted the area around. A young Land Monitor Varanus bengalensis, came into view and we suddenly heard a cry of despair- the Monitor had caught a frog and swallowed it with a great effort. The whole process took about 10 minutes. After that it slowly climbed a nearby tree and we reckoned that the meal would have been sufficient for at least one day. On a thin twiggy tree, a White-lipped Lizard Calotes ceylonensis posed for a photograph. It stayed stock still and blended with the bark of the tree so perfectly that it took us a while to spot it. Another reptile that made its appearance here was a Brown Vine Snake Ahaetulla pulverulenta. This snake was about 2 ½ feet long and also blended so well with the tree on which it was resting that until it moved, we could not see it- so perfect was its camouflage.
We decided to visit Minneriya NP after lunch. While some of us had a short rest after lunch the others scouted the area surrounding our lodgings and were shown a natural circular root formation cleverly converted into a small bird bath. To our delight, a short patient wait was rewarded with some spectacular sightings- first a pair of White-rumped Shamas splashed about in the bath. Then 3 Dark-fronted Babblers, a Black-naped Flycatcher and a pair of Black-capped Bulbuls all arrived together so that we had 4 different species at one time in full view, at the bird bath. Unfortunately the aggressive Shamas chased the Bulbuls away so they were deprived of their bath but the Babblers, Flycatcher and Shamas took turns at bathing and splashing with great enjoyment. It is such a thrill to watch a bird at its bath and we had a bonus watching all these species together. As usual, the photographers in our midst kept clicking and were rewarded with some stunning frames. Close by, in the leaf litter was a pair of the endemic Brown-capped Babblers. They were industriously turning the dead leaves in search of grubs etc. Their gait- an almost jaunty walk was different from the usual hop-hop of other Babblers and their camouflage was perfect since the colouring of their backs was identical to that of the dead leaves. A pair of Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers had a quick bath in another patch of water close by.
After a quick cuppa, we left for Minneriya. The Park was lush and green after the rains and herds of elephants had gathered around the Minneriya Tank.
A few young ones- about 1 month old inspired hope but the most thrilling sight we had was that of a young Tusker- about 3 years old. He was precariously perched on top of a pile of boulders and seemed rather hesitant to descend. The little ones were carefully protected by their mothers and aunts forming barriers on all sides as they led them to the water.
The tanks were full of Openbill, Painted Stork, Grey Heron, and Black-winged Stilts while a few migrants had just begun to arrive. Lesser Sand and Golden Plovers and Wood and Common Sandpipers were present in small numbers. Circling overhead were 3 juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagles.
The next morning, before breakfast, we visited Thalkote Tank. This is a very scenic place where one has a grand view of Pidurangala and Sigiriya Rocks side by side and has fast become a favourite location with us due to its spectacular beauty and serenity. Here on the farther edge of the tank, were hundreds of Openbills and a fair number of Grey Herons. Close to us, perched among the foliage of a leafy tree whose branches hung right down to the water, was a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills with a juvenile. The latter looked quite cute as its tail feathers were short and stumpy while the rest of its body was well developed. Nestled in another tree close by was an adult Black-crowned Night Heron with a juvenile.
After breakfast, we visited Maha Weva. This tank is reputed to have been built by King Mahasen. We walked along the dried up tank bed until we reached the water. Here on an island was a pair of Common Kingfishers patiently perched on a twig, facing the water. This peaceful scene was quickly shattered when they suddenly took off- the culprit being a low flying Grey-headed Fishing Eagle!!
We returned to Back of Beyond and sadly commenced packing as we were loath to leave this wonderful place. Excellent food and service, creature comforts in the middle of the jungle coupled with the most memorable sightings- what more could one ask for?
The Gathering (of Elephants At Minneriya National Park)
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne undertook many visits to Minneriya to observe and publicise The Gathering of Elephants. This year The Gathering ran from July to November as the rains from the North-eat Monsoons were delayed.
Below is a sample of his observations taken from his diary.
Friday 07th November 2008 with Hi
Visited Minneriya with Shyamalee Tudawe, Grace Perera and Chandra Jayawardana (Naturalist, Vil Uyana). The visit was put on with a view to run a story in Hi magazine to feature The Gathering. At Minneriya, one of the small pools of water besides the main lake held a total of 11 Painted Snipe in two clusters. This was the largest number of Pained Snipe I have ever seen.
As we arrived at the tank one cluster had around 60 elephants and another in the distance had around 40. There were a minimum of 100 elephants in the field of view. Amazingly the first cluster walked to the left just as we arrived stretching out into a thin line.
Thursday 4th September 2008 with AFP
Visited Minneriya National Park with Mel Goonesekera (AFP), Ishara Kodikkara (AFP) and Chandra Jayawardana (Vil Uyana Naturalist). The Jeep driver was Pubudu who is a regular with Vil Uyana.
I had been speaking to Mel for several years to run a story on The Gathering. We had some fantastic photo opportunities with a family of elephants which had a baby which looked like it was only a couple of weeks old. About 80 elephants in total in two groups of 40 each. One group we stayed with had a baby about a month old. It kept stumbling around and taking rests. The entire group was very trusting and about 7-8 elephants came within ten feet of the jeep. When we moved away they closed ranks and two adults held each other’s trunks for reassurance. One of the young looked less than a year old and was also suckling. 3 males across the canal jousted with each other for at least half an hour.
Although it looked like it would rain, the lighting turned out to be quite good. Birds seen included Grey-headed Fish-eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Oriental Skylark, etc. The migrants were in and included Grey Plover, Lesser Sand-plover, Greenshank, etc. There were many more species but I did not pause to look at them. On the Sigiriya short cut road we stopped around 7.00 pm. Around 3-4 Jerdon’s Nightjar’s were vocalising. When we reached the Sigiriya moat around 7.35 pm no nightjars were vocalising.
Saturday 19 July 2008 Minneriya
We (my family and Chandra Jayawardana) entered and drove straight to the lake. On our right was a cluster of 40 elephants and on our left a cluster of 80 elephants. All together in the same field of view there were around 130 elephants. I have now begun to emphasize that The Gathering runs from July to mid October. Although the peak numbers are in August and September, with 300 in a one kilometer quadrat at times, Even in July its a phenomenal spectacle. Its a pity that the Cultural Triangle hoteliers are still not promoting The Gathering in the manner they should. The e-Newsletter of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau of this week featured The Gathering and the web site now contains a eBrochure on it.
It was an overcast day and the lighting was dull. By around 5.30 pm the elephants began to disperse in clans of ten to twenty animals. Two groups entered the water. We were positioned about 500m away and kept that distance although we could have joined other vehicles which were parked perhaps 150m from the elephants.
Three young elephants jostled together wheeling around in a tight knit circle. Juveniles who were perhaps under ten years old were also engaged in mock fighting. We observed just one adult male who came out and checked on the females. He was in an excited state.
Oriental Skylarks were in song. About 50 plus Painted Storks were clustered together. A large number of water buffalos (50 plus) were also grazing on the lake shore. I am not sure where they are coming from”.
Nuwara Eliya Wildlife Report
by Nadeera Weerasinghe, Naturalist – Jetwing St. Andrews
1st August 2008
I visited Horton Plains National Park with two clients who were staying at Jetwing St. Andrew’s and during this trip we managed to observe the following wildlife.
§ Ceylon Otter
§ A troop of Highland Bear Monkeys, which comprised of three adult females and two adult males. There were also four other individuals that belonged to the group, but unfortunately we were not able to observe them clearly.
§ Rhino-horn Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii)
§ Black-cheek Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris)
Flora in Bloom:
§ Ma-rath Mal (Rhododendron arboreum)
11th August 2008
Early this morning I visited Horton Plains National Park on once more with two other nature enthusiasts. At around 10.30 am, we neared Baker’s Fall and were fortunate enough to observe a flock of birds right next to footpath that we were travelling on. This flock was made up of a variety of birds and comprised of the Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Woodpigeon, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Ceylon Scimitar-babbler, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Emerald Dove, Great Tit and the Yellow-eared Bulbul.
During our keen observations on these birds we noticed that a Yellow-eared Bulbul emerged through some bushes with a medium sized creature dangling from its beak. After further analysis we managed to identify the prey as a fully grown tree frog, and it was still alive! Unfortunately we were unable to identify the species of this amphibian for it was quickly swallowed. Until this incident I had not known that this specific species of bird preyed on tree frogs.
Along with the flock of birds, we were also able to observe the following flora and fauna in the region:
§ Rhino-horn Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii)
§ Cope’s roughside (Aspidura copei)
§ Black-cheeked Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris). Of this particular species we saw four males, three females and one juvenile.
§ A troop of Highland Bear Monkey
§ Highland Ceylon Giant Squirrel
§ Highland Ceylon Palm Squirrel
§ Ceylon Dusky-stripped Jungle Squirrel
§ The seeds belonging to Valeriana moonii
§ A species of ground orchid – Spiranthes sinensis
17th August 2008
Today I had an amphibian watching session with another client who has an interest in the Amphibians that are located at Jetwing’s St. Andrew’s Model Wetlands. From 6.30PM to 9.00PM we caught sight of (Bufo melanostictus), (Microhyla sp.), (Ramanella obscura), (Fejervarya greenii), (Philautus sp.), (Polypedates eques) and two unidentifiable species. We also saw one reptile species which was (Aspidura copei).
Climatology Information for Nuwara Eliya Visitors
Mean Temperature : Daily Min – 12.3 C°
Daily Max – 19.2 C°
Mean Total Rainfall : 178.8 mm
Mean Number of Rain Days : 15
Activities off the Nature Calendar for September
§ Tours to Hakgala Botanical Garden.
§ Water Falls Tour to see Sri Lankan mountain beauty.
§ Birding at Bomure Ella
An exhibition of a selection of wildlife photographs by Rukshan Jayawardene.
The exhibition will be on from Wednesday 26th November to Sunday 7th December 2008 at the Barefoot Gallery, 704 Galle Road, Colombo 03 (behind barefoot entrance via 8th Lane).
Weekdays 10 am to 7 pm. Sundays 11am to 5pm.
See also under ARTICLES in this wildlife enewsletter, an article by Ruskhan Jayawardene, titled ‘Why am I a Wildlife Photographer’?
2. LYN DE ALWIS MEMORIAL WILDLIFE EXHIBITION
A Wildlife photography exhibition where Sri Lanka’s most talented and best-known nature photographers come together with their best shots must be for a profound reason.
Indeed it is. Commemorating the 2nd death anniversary of the late Deshabandu Lyn de Alwis, the Lyn de Alwis Memorial Wildlife Trust has organized this exhibition and sale in order to raise funds for projects to be carried out in rural schools.
Having had the dual honour of heading both the Zoological Gardens (for 30 years) and the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the late Lyn de Alwis dedicated his life towards the preservation and protection of our natural heritage. His visionary policies of procuring valuable forest and wilderness areas to ensure safe havens for our precious fauna and flora have helped stem the callous destruction of our environment. He lobbied for the declaration of many National Parks and Strict Natural Reserves, which now enjoy patronage of both national and overseas tourists, the proof of which these photographs display, opportunities of rare and beautiful moments captured for posterity.
To name but a few of the many milestones that mark his career: the Uda Walawe and the Wasgamuwa National Parks, the numerous sanctuaries scattered around the country’s agro-ecological zones, the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, the Young Zoologsist Association, the “Open Zoo” and Night Safari in Singapore; bear ample testimony to his selfless dedication to the cause of nature conservation.
The Young Zoologists Association established in 1972 in the shadow of the Zoological Gardens, is an ongoing activity. Besides, he had an active involvement in the propagation of ayurvedic plants and the conservation of the Asian elephant.
Objectives of the Trust
The Trust hopes to further his dream of motivating the youth of this country to become guardians of our environment by helping them to appreciate and value the importance of its preservation. The project will initially be carried out in 5 schools in the Ratnapura district, by setting up nature clubs, and holding seminars and training workshops on identification of birds, reptiles and fish etc. It will also provide information centres for students who wish to expand their interests in home gardening of medicinal plants, soil conservation, habitat restoration and preservation of wildlife. The Trust hopes to venture out into districts where conservation of nature and wilderness areas are of paramount importance.
This Project will be done in collaboration with The Young Zoologists Association, another brainchild of Lyn de Alwis, set up in 1972 which has grown from strength to strength and become a strong young leaders’voice for our natural environment and its protection.
The photographs on display have been graciously provided by Nihal Fernando, Anu Weerasooriya, Luxman Nadarajah, Chitral Jayatilake, Gehan Rajapaksha, Rukshan Jayawardene, Vajira Wijegunawardene, Palith Anthony and Namal Kamalgoda. This is the first time that a large number of photographers have come together to further the cause of conservation which has been part and parcel of our culture.
The Exhibition will be held at the National Art Gallery, Colombo from the 28th – 30th November 2008 from 9.30 am to 6.00pm daily. Entrance is free.
3. DECEMBER BIRD MONTH (FOGSL)
Birds are a common sight in Sri Lanka but many of us fail to appreciate them. To increase the awareness of the public about our feathered friends, the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) has launched its annual nationwide program to assess and study the distribution and presence of birds in Sri Lanka.
December has been declared Bird Counting Month as migrant birds that arrive from other countries too peak in this month. Participation is simple and one need not be an expert birder to get involve. Those who would like to participate has only to watch birds in as many places as possible – own home gardens, school premises, workplace, lakesides, paddy fields -anywhere that is frequented by birds. They can make a list of birds that they can identify in a given location and either email it to email@example.com or post it in to FOGSL, Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. The list should include the date, location, weather at the time, the habitat that the bird was observed in, birds seen and the name and contact details of the observer. Participants can also enter data directly to http://www.worldbirds.org/srilanka which is part of the international network of databases used to analyze status of birds.
The numbers of birds in various areas are also dwindling due to causes such as deforestation, wetland reclamation and changes in habitat. Even the birds that are common today can be diminished without our knowledge. So no species can be labeled, as safe no matter what its number is today. It is only when the public become aware of the value of these beautiful creatures, can more be achieved towards protecting them. Creating this awareness is another aim of Bird Month.
Value of observing data and keep a record – Comments by Prof.Kotagama
“Numbers can have great meaning. It helps us to keep track of changes, gives us confidence to effect changes, and to make good decisions”
“Birds are good indicators of environmental changes. For instance, an increase in the crow population of Colombo would indicate that there has been poor garbage clearance, and a polluted environment. An increase in beautiful birds such as the Sunbird would show that we live in an environment of quality”
Another example is the House Sparrow decline. A decade ago, most of the houses had nest boxes inviting this cute bird. But they are not to be seen in many areas, where they were previously common. So no species can be labeled, as safe no matter what its number is today. It is only when the public become aware of the value of these beautiful creatures, can more be achieved towards protecting them.
The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka is the national affiliate of Birdlife International (www.birdlife.org). Since its establishment in 1976, FOGSL has worked towards two goals-firstly, to study birds in the wild and determine which ones need protection and in what manner, secondly to increase the understanding of the public so that the threat towards birds would lessen. FOGSL based at University of Colombo and conducts a monthly lecture on birds on last Saturday of every month.
‘Bird Counting Month’ is a Citizen Science Project
‘Bird Counting Month’ exercise can be considered as a Citizen Science project where general public can also participate. Citizen science is a term used for projects or ongoing program in which a network of volunteers, many of whom are not experts in the field perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation. The use of citizen-science networks often allows scientists to accomplish research objectives more feasibly than would otherwise be possible. In addition, these projects aim to promote public engagement with the research, as well as with science in general.
The longest-running citizen science project currently active is probably the Christmas Bird Count, which started in 1900 by the Audubon society – the BirdLife partner in USA. Indian ornithological societies conduct a similar program called ‘Migrant Watch’ to observe migrant birds.
About Birds of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, rich in ornithological resources has 26 endemic species of birds with 7 more proposed. Also, its location at the tip of the Indian subcontinent has made it a termination point in the North-South migratory paths of birds. December is in the peak migratory season, which is one of the reasons for making it the bird month.
Deforestation on a large scale has affected several special species of local birds such as the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. One of the most critically endangered species is the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush.
Bedjanic, M., de Silva Wijeyeratne, G., and Conniff, K. (2007). Dragonflies of Sri Lanka. Gehan’s Photo Guide Series. Jetwing Eco Holidays: Colombo. 248 pages (A5). ISBN 978-955-1079-15-4. Rs 1,750.
The first photographic field guide to the dragonflies of Sri Lanka covering 91 of the 118 species found in Sri Lanka. It includes 35 of the 52 endemic species. A landmark publication and the first modern photographic field guide to the Odonata of South Asia. A pdf of the book can be downloaded (free of charge) from stag2.mydemoview.com/jetwingeco.
BirdGuides Ltd. (2007). British Birds interactive. DVD-ROM. £99. www.birdguides.com
A comprehensive resource of 100 years of amazing articles published in British Birds including photographs, illustrations and more than 40,000 pages of text. Users have access to text and image search filters, photographs, illustrations, thousands of articles and can locate articles using species, author, photographer or descriptive terms.
BirdGuides Ltd (2006). Birds of the Western Palearctic interactive (BWPi 2.0). DVD-ROM. £139. www.birdguides.com
The entire text of The Handbook of the Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East (the complete 9-volume set, known as BWP). All the text, maps and artwork (including all the new species illustrations) from the Concise Birds of the Western Palearctic (the 2-volume set, known as Concise BWP). 75 comprehensively revised species accounts from the journal BWP Update. Over 2000 high quality video clips (more than 10 hours running time) from the extensive BirdGuides archive. BWPi contains 6 million words published in BWP and Concise BWP including 75 extensively revised species accounts from the authoritative journal BWP Update. Over 5600 illustrations of over 900 species, showing birds at rest and in flight and in various plumages, accurately painted by some of the world’s best artists including Ian Lewington, Chris Rose and Alan Harris.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2008) A Photographic Guide to Mammals of Sri Lanka. New Holland, London. 128 pages. ISBN 978 1 84773 142 5.
The first photographic guide to the mammals of Sri Lanka, richly illustrated with photographs and packed with information. 40 species are described covering all the terrestrial mammal families. The text is based on the many years of field work by the author but also brings in what has been published in the latest scientific literature. Many intriguing aspects of mammalian behavior are written in a style intelligible to the lay reader.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2007). A Pictorial Guide and Checklist of the Birds of Sri Lanka. Jetwing Eco Holidays: Colombo. 66 pages. A4. Rs 850.
A lavishly produced checklist with photographic plates facing the checklist pages. Photographs of 281 species. The checklists contain a map of key birding sites in Sri Lanka, a booklist, a discussion on the uses of a checklist and the nomenclature, taxonomy and the status of birds as used in the checklist. Twenty one columns of tick boxes.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2007). Sri Lankan Wildlife. Bradt Travel Guides, UK. 144 pages. 13.5 cm x 21.5 cm. ISBN-10 1 841621 74 9, ISBN-13 978 1 841621 74 6.
An overview of Sri Lanka’s wildlife and wilderness areas, illustrated with over 120 photographs. Probably the best overall introduction to Sri Lankan wildlife. Text and principal photography by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. GBP 15.99.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2007). Portrait of Sri Lanka. New Holland Publishers, London. 120 pages. Hard Cover & Dust Jacket. ISBN 1-84537-110-0.
A beautifully designed souvenir guide to Sri Lanka’s people, culture, landscapes and wildlife. A part of New Holland’s Portrait series.
De Silva, M. & de Silva, P.K. (2007). The Sri Lankan Elephant. Its evolution, ecology & conservation. WHT Publications (Pvt) Ltd. Colombo. 278 pages. ISBN 978-955-9114-39-0. Rs 1,750.
de Vlas – de Jong, J., and Dr. de Vlas, J. (2008). Illustrated Field Guide to the Flowers of Sri Lanka. 269 pages. Mark Booksellers and Distributors (Pvt) Ltd: Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-1917-00-5.
Descriptions of approximately 1000 plant species, which are illustrated with more than 2000 colour photographs of flowering plants in Sri Lanka. The information presented is written in simple English and is divided into various topics which are easy to understand.
Fernando, J. & Fernando, T. (2008). A Selection of Fruits of Sri Lanka. Published by the author. 72 pages. ISBN 955-50431-1-3.
Colour illustrations of 85 species of fruits. Hard cover. This is the only illustrated guide to Sri Lanka’s fruits which includes endemic, native and introduced species. Rs 1,950.
Francis, C.M. (2008). A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-east Asia. New Holland Publishers, London. ISBN 978 1 84537 735 9
South-East Asia is one of the richest parts of the world in terms of mammals, with species new to science still being described on a regular basis. The first comprehensive guide to the mammals of this region, A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia covers all the mammals recorded from mainland South-East Asia, from Myanmar through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and south to Malaysia. A detailed account with key identification characteristics, habitat and behaviour is included for each species, from large mammals such as big cats, the elephant, rhinoceroses and cetaceans, through bears, langurs and badgers, to bats, flying-foxes and rodents. Detailed line drawings amplify details of anatomy and other aspects. Seventy-two magnificent specially commissioned colour plates by top wildlife artists show nearly 500 major species, and thumbnail maps give information on distribution.
Gamage, R. (2007). An illustrated guide to the butterflies of Sri Lanka. Published by the author. 264 pages. ISBN 978-955-50360-0-9.
Colour illustrations of 244 species of butterflies and skippers. Some of the plates show some of the food plants. A 5 in size. The inclusion of the host plants make it a useful addition to the butterfly watcher’s library. Rs 2,000.
IUCN Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Environmental Resources. (2007). The 2007 Red List of Threatened Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka. Colombo, Sri Lanka. 148 pages. ISBN 978-955-8177-63-1.
Jayatilake, C. (2008). Moments of Truth In the Wilderness. Published by Vijitha Yapa Bookshop. 185 pages. Printed in Singapore. ISBN 978 955-665-023-5. 12″ x 9″. Full colour & black & white photographs of Sri Lankan wildlife. The book includes chapters on Leopard cubs, Mammals, Birds, Snakes, Elephants, dominant male Leopards and Village Folk. More than 225 colour images will take you on a safari like never before when animals had done more than just stare at the cameras. Foreword by Dominic Sansoni.
Morgan – Davis, M. (2008). From Ceylon to Sri Lanka – Experiences of a Naturalist Tea Planter. 166 pages. Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha Printers: Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-
Designed in the form of a typical 19th century explorer naturalist style, the author has set out to capture the minds of his readers so that they could read about some of his life’s adventures which he experienced as a young man in “Ceylon”. The narrative on the frontispiece given below sets the tone.
“The Experiences, Adventures, Encounters and Memories of a Naturalist Tea Planter in the Jungles, Patanas, Lakes, Rivers and Coastal Waters of the most Bountiful Island variously known over the Millennia as Naga Dwipa, Lanka, Tambapanni, Taprobane, Ilankai, Serendib, Ceilão, Ceylan, Ceylon and, of Recent Times, as Sri Lanka. Wherein a Myriad of Handsome Birds and Terrifying Beasts once occurred in Great and Splendid Numbers for the Pleasure and Wonderment of Sportsmen, Naturalists and the Peoples of this Most Fair of all Islands in the Indian Ocean. All of which has been Enriched by Diverse Illustrations, Photographs and Maps.”
The book comprises of 21 chapters, of which the first two speak about his early years. A few others include “Yala National Park – A Legacy from the Kingdom of Ruhuna, Crocodiles – The Leviathans of Sri Lanka” and “Mannar – Baobab Trees and Palmyra Palms”. The book also features a variety of maps, photographs and paintings of both the author and of various Sri Lankan folklore and wildlife.
Nadaraja, L. (2008). The nature of Sri Lanka. Published by Wildlight (Pvt) ltd. Printed in Singapore. ISBN 978-955-1989-00-2. 320 pages. 13” x 10” full colour and black and white photographs of Sri Lankan wildlife and nature. Eminent writers and conservationists, Dr T.S.U. de Zylva, Shirley Perera, Dr Sriyanie Miththapala, Dr Arjuna Parakrama, Dr Shyamala Ratnayeke, Sri Lanka Thilaka Martin Wijesinghe, Arjuna Nadaraja, Richard Simon and Arittha Wikramanayake have contributed interesting essays on varied subjects.
Scigliano, E. 2002. Love, War, and Circuses: The Age-old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans. Houghton Mifflin Books. 358 pages. ISBN 0618015833, 9780618015832
For millennia, people all over the world have revered, adored and exploited elephants. In Thailand, a pregnant woman ducks under an elephant’s belly in hopes of having an easy delivery; a tycoon builds an elephant-shaped skyscraper; and pirate loggers feed amphetamines to their elephants to make them haul backbreaking loads. In India, milling worshippers dance with gilded tuskers at ecstatic temple festivals. From the steppes of Siberia to America’s prairies, scientists have proposed restoring lost ecosystems by reintroducing the elephants and mammoths that once ruled them. And generation after generation of readers have delighted in Babar, Horton and Dumbo. In a kaleidoscopic account rich in historic lore, surprising science and exotic adventure, Eric Scigliano traces an age-old, extraordinary relationship between species and shows how it still haunts and inspires us today. He explains how elephants may have been ‘nursemaids’ to human evolution and how they shaped history, art, religion, and popular culture as no other animals have. He joins a gruelling chase after crop-raiding rogues in Sri Lanka and probes the bitter battle over the roles of elephants in zoos and circuses, revealing the enduring ecological importance and mythic fascination of these endangered giants”.
Warakagoda, D. & Hettige, U. (2008). Birds of Sri Lanka: Vocalization and Image Guide Volume 1. 2008. CD ROM.
It features 135 species of Non-Passerine birds – Little Grebe to Woodpeckers – with 222 types of vocalizations by them and nearly 300 colour images. This multimedia publication is designed (in the form of an ‘e-book’ or ‘e-guide’) for easy access to the species featured and their vocalization types. All the sounds and plumages shown in the images are identified in detail. This work presents an extensive amount of information previously unpublished on the vocalizations of these birds. This CD-ROM is an excellent companion to any guide book on the birds of Sri Lanka. Also featured are a number of vocalization types not included in the audio guides on the birds of Sri Lanka by the first author, the only such guides available.
Zeylanica. (October 2007). Volume 7, No 1. WHT Publications (Pvt) Ltd. Colombo. 124 pages. ISSN 1391-6270. Rs 1,000.
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